How Should I Transition From a Gap Year to Medical School?

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

With one or more years between undergraduate study and a medical school education becoming more common, many medical students must now figure out how to transition from their gap years back into the classroom. Some students worry that they will have forgotten how to study effectively, while others worry about transitioning from the relatively stress-free environment of a gap year to the rigor of medical school. If you are a newly-minted medical student trying to prepare for your first year of medical school after some time away from academic life, consider making your transition smoother with these tips:
1. Enjoy the final weeks of your gap year
For some students, a medical school acceptance letter prompts both relief and anxiety. You may be thrilled that you are now a physician-in-training, but worry begins to creep in—worry about how you will handle the course load, where you will live and with whom, and perhaps even how you will pay for school. It is important, however, to remember that it is unlikely that you will ever again have as much downtime as a medical student as you do now. Enjoy your free time, and resist the urge to spend every moment worrying about medical school. You will not be able to predict and prepare for the challenges of your first year by worrying, and you will be sacrificing precious hours in which you could have been traveling, relaxing, and so on.
2. Update your technology
The first week of medical school is not the time to realize that your computer is out of date and will not be able to effectively run the programs you need to study. While you have the time, determine which computers (and other electronic devices) are compatible with your school’s network and programs, and then update or replace your devices as indicated.
3. Avoid “pre-studying”
Some medical students believe that spending several months reviewing their undergraduate science materials is beneficial, but given that medical school courses are more focused and thorough than undergraduate classes, this review is rarely useful. It is typically not possible to adequately “pre-study” for medical school, so instead of doing so, pick up a book that you have been meaning to read, catch up on back issues of your favorite magazine, or watch that movie that you have been neglecting.
4. Find housing, and move in with time to spare
If your school does not provide housing, or if you are electing to find your own, locating a place to live (as well as potential roommates) can be a stressful part of transitioning to medical school. Use these months to research available apartments and houses in areas around your school. Make the trip to visit potential properties if you are able to do so, and sign a lease that begins a week or more before your orientation so that you have plenty of time to acclimate to your new environment before school starts.
5. Settle your finances
It is almost always easier to think about how you will pay for medical school when you are not in the thick of your coursework. Ensure that all of your financial aid paperwork is submitted, and that you have followed up with any additional information that was requested by your school’s financial aid office. Take some time to review the terms of any loans or scholarships that you have received, and create a folder to easily reference all of your financial statements. In short, organize yourself financially before your first day of classes.
6. If applicable, leave your gap year job on positive terms
When it comes time to leave your place of employment before you start medical school, do so on good terms. Give your supervisor advance notice of when you will be leaving, and tie up any loose ends and projects before you depart. Thank your coworkers and superiors for the experience, and leave knowing that you did so in a professional and respectful manner.
Cassie Kosarek is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Class of 2020 at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.